The psychology of war and warriors
Peter Wehner writes about Obama’s decision to draw down troops in Afghanistan, something that (just coincidentally, of course) will take place right before Obama’s reelection bid. Wehner is appalled, and he explains that this gross political calculation isn’t the way it needs to be:
I have the advantage of having served a president during wartime. And whatever faults one might be tempted to lay at the feet of George W. Bush, he never allowed politics of the Obama kind to infect his decisions. I know of what I speak. In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching and the war of Iraq floundering, Senator Mitch McConnell, then the Republic whip, asked to see the president alone in the Oval Office. “Mr. President,” McConnell said, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of Congress.” When President Bush asked McConnell what to do about it, McConnell said, “Bring some troops home from Iraq.”
Four months later, Senator McConnell got his reply. President Bush — who faced far more ferocious political opposition to the war than Obama ever has — not only did not withdraw troops; he increased them while embracing a strategy that came to be known as the “surge.” And he blocked every attempt at a premature withdrawal.
There are many factors that explain why the Iraq war turned around, but the fortitude of President Bush surely ranks high among them. That quality looked impressive then; it looks even more impressive now.
Apropos that not so coincidental timing, the conventional wisdom is that the troops, grateful to return home, will cast their votes for the Democrat who made it so. I wonder if that’s true.
Obama has consistently proven himself profoundly ignorant of the military mindset, something that’s true for most Leftists. Leftists are feral fighters, not principled fighters. While feral fighters will fight quite ferociously if threatened (which is why Leftist leadership works mightily to keep its followers in a blind panic, as with global warming), what Leftists really want is for the threat to stop affecting them personally.
Principled fighters, however, are willing to take ultimate risks for a cause greater than themselves. It’s a much more altruistic approach to war, and one that sees people willing to make great sacrifices for a final goal that may not even benefit them directly.
Because Dems are feral fighters, they assume all wars are Vietnam. Back then, the draft and the upheaval in America meant that way too many Vietnam troops didn’t believe in their mission, and were desperate to have a political change that would get them home.: These are the kind of troops Dems recognize.
I don’t think we have a Vietnam military today. Instead, our military is made made up of volunteers, who either embrace fighting generally (the adrenalin junkies) or embrace the larger existential battle raging throughout the world, a war that burns especially hot in Afghanistan. Rather than thanking Obama for bringing them home, these principled or professional warriors may resent the way Obama is dragging them away from the good fight, destroying their hard won gains, and handing victory to an exceptionally brutal enemy who will reengage us both at home and abroad.
UPDATE:: Barry Rubin, after reading what I wrote, thinks there’s something different going on:: “Obama is NOT doing this to win votes in the military. He has no illusions about that. He’s doing it: to win votes from average Americans to whom he can say: I brought the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. And it will work UNLESS those situations visibly collapse and even then it will gain votes for him.”: As Barry sums it up, “Obama is making a good political calculation at the cost of a strategic miscalculation.”
Barry is so much more astute and well-informed than I am, that I don’t doubt that he’s right about Obama’s calculation.: However, I do wonder how the Average American (or the Progressive voter) will view Obama’s involvement in Libya when making a balancing of interests.: I also wonder if the ultimate pass will always be abortion.: Since the anti-War protests stopped when Bush left, even though the wars continued and even escalated, I suspect that, while war is a real concern to the Democrat base, it’s abortion that will always be the kicker for his core constituency.: And really, when one thinks about it, that’s a pretty strange issue to use as the final determiner when deciding the person for whom to vote.
Cross-posted at Bookworm Room